I didn’t have much luck getting Grim Fandango working under wine; some of my colleagues suggested VirtualBox, so I thought I’d give that a try. And it worked better (helped by one amazing piece of blind dumb luck); not perfectly, but well enough that I should be able to participate in the inaugural run of the Vintage Game Club.

The steps, as best I remember them:

  • Install the virtualbox package, create an image using the suggested XP defaults.
  • Run it with an XP installation CD that came with my defunct laptop. Fortunately, the CD turned out not to insist to be running on Dell hardware or anything.
  • Click on the window, and notice that keyboard input stops working when I do that. Curse; what is it with these keyboard problems that I’m having when trying to get this game working? Right-control doesn’t work to get out of it, so I switch to a non-X login (Control-Alt-F1), kill virtualbox.
  • Try again. Note that keyboard passthrough works fine as long as I don’t click on the window, so I can either use the mouse or the keyboard. Well, the installation seems to not require me to move the mouse, so let’s go with that.
  • Except that it does require me to click on the screen where I’m entering user accounts. Sigh. My keyboard has occasionally temporarily lost mouse control – maybe there’s something weird about the PS2-to-USB converter that I’m using? Run out to the store to buy a USB keyboard and trackball. (Incidentally, my hand doesn’t like the trackball that I bought any more than it likes a mouse; I wish non-laptop keyboard with integrated trackpads hadn’t gone completely out of fashion.)
  • Come back, plug it in. And have a remarkable stroke of luck: I’d left the computer in the non-X console. When I switched back to the X console, my typing monitor that forces me to take periodic breaks decides to kick in. And it managed to grab the mouse/keyboard back from virtualbox, yay! So: click the mouse on the entry field where I need it, wait for the typing monitor to kick in again, then type in the information I need.
  • After that, the rest of the installation completes. And, when I get XP installed, I can install the “guest OS extensions” which allow mouse passthrough as well as keyboard passthrough. So now I can click and type without excessive workarounds.
  • Do a zillion OS updates, because I can’t bear to have an old XP install, even if it’s behind two layers of external network protection. Pleased at how the networking stuff Just Works in virtualbox.
  • Install Grim Fandango. Seems to work, but no sound? Ah, I forgot to tell virtualbox to provide a sound card to XP; when I do that, I get sound.
  • But the sound is choppy. Grumble, but there’s not much I can do about that, and it’s not so bad as to make the game unbearable.

So I’m ready to go; I’m looking forward to the game club kickoff on Monday. Hmm, why didn’t we start on a weekend? This weekend is busy, though (Miranda’s birthday, she’s 9 years old!), so I guess that’s just as well.

All in all, I’m pleased with my virtualization experience; the keyboard problem was a serious one, but (unlike with wine), I managed to resolve it, and I’m getting the feeling that there must be something weird about my setup. Given the complexity of what’s going on, I was pleased how smoothly things went other than that.

The other nice thing about virtualization: I saved snapshots of the machine at various points. In particular, if I want to revert to a clean XP install (after applying updates), I can; that might be useful for future games, if I run into weird conflicts.

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